For many decades I have thought of myself as an environmentalist. I’ve participated in protests against environmental destruction, I am a member of various groups and organisations that advocate protection of our environment and I engage in a lot of ‘armchair activism’. Last year I was humbled when I went to see a talk given by an amazing, seemingly indefatigable woman in her 80s, one of my favourite environmentalists, Dr Jane Goodall.
Jane Goodall being interviewed, Perth 2017
I first came across her name when studying psychology in the late 70s, and then again while doing my Masters some years later when I undertook a study of language in apes. I’d also lived for many years in Tanzania, her adopted country where she has spent many years of her life studying the social and family interactions of wild chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park, although now she is travelling for almost 300 days a year in her advocacy work. She started her travels in a quest to save chimpanzees from extinction and this developed into a much broader conservation platform. As I listened that evening, it was not only the fact that she had given her whole life to conservation, often in the face of grim opposition, but it was her hope for the future that inspired.
So when I thought about my growth as a person over the last few years and how I hope I will grow in the future, it is my activism that I am most passionate about. Whether it be standing in the freezing cold of a North Yorkshire winter to stop fracking vehicles passing, speaking out against multinationals and their greed, stopping a pointless road going through important wetlands in Western Australia, or protesting about the abuse of human rights in Australia’s refugee policy, I know I will not sit quietly this year.
Protesting a road to nowhere – Roe 8 in Beeliar Wetlands, 2017
As Jane Goodall says, ‘It’s amazing what happens when people see the difference they can make.’
I have travelled to many UNESCO World Heritage sites. Zanzibar Stone Town in Tanzania, Kathmandu Valley in Nepal, the Medina of Fez in Morocco, Robben Island in South Africa, The Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the Grand Canyon in the USA, the rock-hewn Churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia, Lavaux Vineyard Terraces in Switzerland (below), to name a few.
I wondered what the listing actually meant, so of course I googled it.
‘Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritage are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration.
Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritage are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration.’
This got me wondering even more.
If these sites are to be passed on to future generations, why do we do so little when some are so threatened?
Kilwa Kisiwani, Tanzania
Just below the surface lies a small part of the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia.
I took this photo in November last year just before jumping off the tourist boat to go snorkelling. An hour later I was in shock. In the twenty or so years since I’d last dived here how could this have happened?
The Great Barrier Reef, in far North Queensland, is the largest living structure on Earth, and it’s visible from space. Most of us know of its outstanding beauty and biodiversity and many of us now know of the coral bleaching that has been so devastating over the past years.
Sir David Attenborough says, “It is one of the greatest, and most splendid natural treasures that the world possesses.”
So why are we doing nothing to protect it?
Why are we so complacent about climate change that we have ignored the science that could have prevented coral bleaching and the increase in extreme weather events?
Why does our government not only approve the biggest coal mine in Australia’s history to a foreign company, Adani, when pollution is killing our reef and fossil fuels are quickly becoming a thing of the past, but also offers Adani a billion dollars in incentives?
Do those of us who are educated and living in the developed world really believe that by ignoring climate change it will no longer be a problem?
One day our children will say, “What on earth were they thinking?”
Oh yes. And Happy Earth Day 2017 …
Staring through the window I sit
nursing a mug of tea.
The swish of tyres after recent rain
and the squawks of parakeets
foraging in the flame tree
are background noise to my thoughts.
Thoughts of disbelief.
Thoughts of anger.
Colours mute as the sun descends.
Long shadows fall across the yard.
My phone beeps, more news.
I don’t look.
Enough bad news for one day.
‘Atrocities believed to have happened on Nauru.’
How can a government be so callous,
so lacking in compassion?
I don’t want news.
I want answers.
But I don’t get answers.
All we get are platitudes
My dog doesn’t need much to enjoy herself.
A few friends to chase and a beautiful empty beach.
You can’t help but enjoy yourself too.